Monday, 31 December 2007

Some progress

After Thursday and Friday's rather disastrous sessions, I took a friend with me to the yard to see if she could see anything from the ground. She is a human physio, but good with horses' muscles too, so I got her to have a feel down her back before I tacked her up. She said she didn't seem sore at all, but she was slightly tight behind the saddle on the right hand side. She massaged this a bit and then I tacked her up.

When I got on, she seemed much calmer than she had been the previous two days. She wasn't shying, despite the fact that we were riding outside, it was getting dark and it was blowing a gale. This was a big improvement. When I asked her to trot she was OK. It felt slightly rushed, but she did settle, and I was able to get her to bend quite nicely. My friend said that it looked rhythmical and didn't look rushed. It was still nothing like the length of stride we managed in my lesson with John last week, but she was at least not rushing. I was getting worried that she was starting to lean on my hands too much, which doesn't help with the feeling that she's rushing. My friend suggested that I drop the contact every now and again so that she doesn't have anything to lean on. I have thought about this, but I am also aware that a young horse needs to feel supported and secure, so I don't want to worry her by suddenly dropping her.

She did go very well. I rode her for about twenty-five minutes, then my friend said she'd love to see her canter. Stupidly, I said that would be fine. She had been going really well, then I went and spoiled it! The transition wasn't great, but the canter itself was very balanced and controlled. However, when I came back to a trot, I tried to keep the trot going and get it back to how it had been. Not a chance. She zoomed around at a hundred miles an hour and I was back to not being able to slow her down. My friend said that it was fairly clear that it's still the canter that's bothering her. She seems to think I am going to ask for it again and again, so anticipates it and rushes, getting herself in a terrible state. I brought her back to a walk and let her calm down. My friend also said that it is perfectly normal for young horses to have pretty awful canters for quite a while. She trained a pony years ago that she said used to have a 'train-wreck' of a canter for ages. This gave me a little confidence.

Rather than ride her yesterday, I decided to lunge her instead. She was wonderfully calm and accepted the side-reins very well. It's funny - when I ride her, she is much better on the left and harder to ride on the right. On the lunge, she is far better to the right. When she was really calm and listening to me on the right, I asked for canter and she popped up into canter beautifully. The circle was balanced and she didn't pull at all. On the left, she got anxious in the transitions and ran to try to get into canter. When in canter, she wasn't terribly balanced and fought the side-reins. It was useful to see this, as afterwards her trot was rushing again. She seems to just be really sensitive about her transitions at the moment.

I am going to give her today off, then give her a good massage before riding her tomorrow. I was planning to get her back looked at by the Bowen lady after my Christmas holidays, but if necessary, I will get her to treat her this week. As even I can feel this tight area, it must be there and could mean that she isn't completely comfortable. I'll see how it goes tomorrow.

Wishing everybody a very happy new year - I'm going to think of some training goal 'resolutions' today. I didn't end up doing that dressage test this weekend, as I didn't think we would even get through it considering how she went on Friday! Never mind - there will be other opportunities!


Wiola said...

Happy New Year :)
A little thought on riding Echo and your current little blips with speed...I know dressage horses are generally trained differently than show jumpers but here is what I would suggest...Maybe try shortening your stirrups and ride her in a more 'off the back' seat - like a two-point seat or simply fold a little forward and take your weight off her back. I am not saying you are doing something wrong now but seeing she is only three years old she might be telling you that her muscles are not yet ready for the upright dressage position you seem to ride her in. When I worked with young stallions they were ridden in a sort of two point seat/light seat only for the first 6 to 8 months (almost up until they were 4.5 years old) and only then we would lenghten the stirrups and sit deeper. Maybe try to go into two point during transitions which will encourage her to work over the back and offer it more readily.
On my youngsters I used to take them out hacking and trotted them for a while in two-point of half seat on a stretched contact (connected that is - not loose rein) - they loved it! and were much more supple to school later.
Like you said she most likely isn't in pain but maybe just 'feeling the overall strain' of training.
If you hold good contact and ride forward with energy your folded position shouldn't make her go on the forehand.
Anyway, I might be completaly off the mark here but that is how I have been taught. I am only learning about this dressage malarky now :)

This is a bit off topic but while at Olympia I saw a presentation of 3 year old stallions from Warendorf - all ridden in a deep, dressage seat looking like Novice champions. I was really shocked to see that :(

Echo said...

I will have a think about this. I only ever canter her in a light seat, and I try to make my trot/canter transitions in a light seat. I hadn't really thought about doing this at other times, but I will experiment a little. Thank you.

With regards to the dressage stallions, I hate seeing young horses forced into an advanced outline too early. I have no doubt that some horses bred for dressage just have a fantastically natural ability to go like that - I've witnessed it myself when we were breaking a youngster at my old boss' yard. As soon as he had a rider on he was in an outline, trotting around like a dressage horse. You would have thought he was twice his actual age. I don't mind seeing youngsters worked in an outline - it's the only way a horse can truly carry a rider without putting a strain on his back, but what I hate is seeing youngsters pulled up into an advanced position. Most of the horses prepared for auctions are ridden like this: head very high and lots of extension. These horses then have to go right back to basics before they can go correctly.

Daily adventures while training my young horse.